A minor alteration

DSC_0329We recently decided to make a few changes to our home. It has been extended several times by previous owners, which created space but did have some flaws. For example, the back of the house had been extended out to a single storey which created a morning room, larger kitchen and utility, but the downside was that no further windows had been added which made the kitchen dark, so we need the lights on all the time. We used the morning room as a playroom for Josh, but he rarely played in it, instead taking his toys in to the living room, so this just ended up being mainly used for storage for most of the year. Connected to our morning/ playroom is our dining room that we only use for ‘special occasions’

DSC_0334Following the arrival of our son I became a full time mum / part time worker, so the majority of my week is spent at home. I found I was spending most of my time in our kitchen, either doing household tasks or playing / interacting with Josh, and I quickly realised we weren’t using the space as well as we could do.

Then, last year my sister had a conservatory added to her home, which changed the whole flow and feel of their home, making it very modern and inviting, as well as multifunctional. I wanted the same feeling for our home, and this triggered us to reconsider what we do with our house.

We started by thinking what we needed from the different rooms and space:

  1. More light!!!!
  2. A new, refreshed kitchen that had both modern and traditional elements (so it wouldn’t date quickly)
  3. More warmth (we had a radiator intended for a room a third of the size, so the kitchen was always cold for 6 months of the year)
  4. Somewhere else for my husband to study – Matt is in the middle of doing his MBA but also often works from home, so spends many hours a day sitting in a study and gets cabin fever!
  5. Somewhere for us to be together as a family, TV free, to either listen to music, chat, play board games etc.
  6. To refresh the dining room and make it more suitable for other activities, eg. I can do my hobbies in there while Matt studies, so we can still be in each other’s company
  7. Improve the overall flow of the rooms – the kitchen and playroom just merge into one, and the dining room feels out of place

This is what we decided to do:

  • Completely refit the kitchen with new worktops and cupboards
  • Change the ceiling lights from two sets of 4-way spotlights, to spotlights embedded into the ceiling itself
  • Install large Velux windows above the top of the kitchen and the new family room
  • Refloor the kitchen, hallway, family room and dining room, including under-floor heating
  • Move the radiator and change it for a more powerful one
  • Buy new furniture to completely change the family room

After planning what we wanted and setting a budget we decided to get some quotes. I found this quite daunting – having watched programmes like watchdog and rouge traders I was concerned about being ripped off, and also felt that sometimes workmen create quotes based on what they think you can afford rather than what the job is actually worth. After multiple recommendations we decided to get two quotes. The first was from a reputable company that had offices in the area. The second was from a local, established kitchen fitter with many years experience, who came highly recommended by a good friend. He also had other local clients who would have been happy for us to visit to see his work.

The process of receiving quotes and designs was similar from both; we had a home visit to take measurements and chat about design and taste, they then went away to draw it up, and we then viewed it along with a quote.

IMG_0013We decided to choose our local tradesman for the following reasons.

  • The ‘big company’ was very specific with their design, including what was included and what wasn’t. We were worried that this might cause further costs if the installation didn’t go to plan, because there was no flexibility in the quotation.
  • Our local kitchen fitter made us feel at ease. He was flexible, non-pressured, and kept open communication giving us the opportunity to make decisions as the project moved along.
  • He project-managed and coordinated all other tradesman (electrician, plumber, decorator, tiler), something we would have had to arrange ourselves with the ‘big company’ as they would only fit cupboards and worktops, not connect appliances/ lights etc. (unless we went for their more expensive premium service)
  • We also had some large Velux windows fitted to the roof at the back of the house by a roofer who told us he would box up and remove beams; however he only put the windows in and then said a plasterer would remove the beams, box up etc. Our local fitter offered to make this right and only charged us at a daily rate for the job and materials.
  • And finally, we wanted to support our local tradesman given the current economy.

After three weeks our kitchen, utility, family room and dining room were complete. The house feels transformed. Our fitters arrived on-time everyday, and the project was completed within the time we expected. Plus we managed to not pull too much hair out during the process (especially important as Matt didn’t have much to start with!).

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We now have

  1. DSC_0357A completely refreshed kitchen with modern and traditional elements – we decided after much consideration to have an off-white gloss door (modern) with oriental block worktop and a travertine tile (traditional). I also found a paint that matched the doors so this and the gloss on the doors made the room a lot lighter.
  2. DSC_0377A much warmer set of rooms – the under-floor heating (on separate timers allowing us to be more efficient with the heat!) combined with the new radiator mean we are never cold in any of the rooms.
  3. A place where Matt can now sit comfortably and study on an evening/ weekend, and when we have people round this gives us a place to congregate and chat away from the distraction of the TV.
  4. A dining room with a wooden floor (it was previously carpeted), which now looks like a room in its own right. We painted the walls in a neutral colour and used blue/ green as an accent colour. When the dining room doors are open I can now use the table to paint, etc while Matt studies a few feet away.
  5. DSC_0370A downstairs floor that flows beautifully. We now use the whole space, the family room is now a room in its own right, and the house seems much more spacious.
  6. Lots and lots more light – the kitchen fitter suggested that we open up the ceilings rather than box the windows, which made the rooms much more spacious, and let a lot more light in. Plus, they fitted daylight bulbs in all the lights making the rear of the kitchen feel much more open as well.

We have now added our finishing touches and we were able to really enjoy our mini renovation over Christmas – we hosted our family on Christmas Day this year. It was very cosy and homely, yet still modern, fresh and bright.

If anyone would like the details of our kitchen fitter please get in touch as I would be happy to pass them on.

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My Ratatouille Moments.

I wasn’t sure why, but recently I have been having an awful lot of what I’m calling ‘my ratatouille moments’. As an avid Disney /Pixar fan and child at heart, I found much joy in the film Ratatouille and could relate to the character Anton EgoAnton Ego during his Ratatouille moment, France’s harshest food critic, when he eats Remmy’s ratatouille for the first time. Unknown to him that it has been cooked by a highly talented rat, and immediately has a flashback to his childhood. A moment in time when he was sad and vulnerable and his mum gave him a bowl of ratatouille (often described as peasant food). Within an instant he is soothed and feels loved by the memory of the food prepared by a caring and loving mother.

As a mum of a two year old boy I have at times found it difficult to tempt him from a culinary point of view. Don’t get me wrong, I can cook a good variety of healthy nutritious meals, but a two year old can’t always appreciate that. I started looking back at meals my by mum had cooked for me as a child, that when revisited have been enjoyed not only by my little boy and my husband, but given me the ‘ratatouille moment’ – that instant flashback to childhood or teenhood when my mum had cooked for me. Giving me not only a lovely meal, but an instant reconnection to a lovely childhood and more importantly my wonderful mum. I have always had a wonderful relationship with my mum, but now I am a mum myself, I can fully appreciate the love, sweat and tears she put in to us and still does. I often confide in my mum about my insecurities as a parent, who in many ways is my best friend , and as in every aspect of my life she continues to nurture, reassure and support me.

Joshua cookingI have found that a ‘ratatouille moment’ doesn’t just relate to food, it relates to many aspects of life. Smelling the first cut lawn of spring or the waft of BBQ smoke, creeping down the stairs on Christmas morning to ‘see if Santa has been’. Feeling that wonderful exhaustion after a day of playing in the garden with my son, or having him stood next to me on a chair ‘helping’ while I do my household chores, just as I had done with my mum. I know many people will think that it is simply enjoying a reminiscence, but to me it’s so much more than that. It is rediscovering the wonder and magic of being a child, while also absorbing and appreciating the great honour of being a parent and trying to capture and enjoy every second of the miracle that is my little boy.

I sincerely hope that as our son grows, he’s also able to look back on a happy fun filled childhood. I hope if I can be half the mum to him, as his grandmother is to me, then he will be a very lucky little boy.

Joshua

Happy mothers day mum. xxxx

Here are few of my ratatouille moments:

  • Drinking dandelion and burdock
  • Eating smoked haddock poached in milk
  • Pancakes with mince beef gravy

Just to name a few! I would love it if you could leave a comment and leave me a few of yours…

My Aloe Vera Plant

I know it may seem strange to have an Aloe Vera plant for the topic of a blog post, but my Aloe Vera plant is special. As many of you may know I am a nurse, and about four years ago I moved from the acute setting of the hospitals into the community, joining the district nursing team. This had always been a lifelong ambition.

At my first post in the community I worked at a very busy inner city practice. It was here that I met a lady called Megan (her name has been changed for confidentiality). Megan was a widow in her late sixties. She had moved to England from Ireland with her husband after they married around 40 years ago. They had one son who had married and lived down south. Her son had no children. Megan had a few friends and relied upon her neighbours for support.

The reason I went to visit Megan was because she had been diagnosed with cancer. I was asked to visit her to provide support and help with symptom management.

When I first met Megan I noticed her home was immaculate; she was very well dressed and house-proud. We went through the assessment and family history. Within a short time we started to discuss Megan’s hobbies and pastimes. She told me she was a keen gardener and cook, as well as enjoying needlepoint. We agreed that I would phone her every week, and if she wanted me to visit she would tell me at that time.

Over the next few weeks I would visit Megan as required; during these visits we would discuss many things and she shared with me her secret family recipe for soda bread. On one visit, Megan was feeling quite ill with abdominal pain; the GP had visited and prescribed all the possible medication she could take. She also had a heat pack around her tummy. She asked me if I could think of anything else that might help. I sat there racking my brain for alternative remedies, then all of a sudden I remembered Aloe Vera. I knew that when taken in the gel form it had soothing anti-inflammatory properties. I told Megan that this wasn’t a cure, it might just help her manage the symptoms.

Over the next few weeks Megan’s symptoms settled, but she asked me if I would mind popping in to visit her anyway. When we were sat in Megan’s lounge she went in to the kitchen and bought in a small green sprig, around three inches tall. She told me it was a baby Aloe Vera plant, and she wanted me to have it because of the care and support I had given her. I was overwhelmed, took my baby plant home and have nurtured it ever since.

About a month after Megan gave me the plant I received a phone call from the local hospice where she had been staying for further symptom management. They told me she had passed away in her sleep very peacefully.

Megan was one of those wonderful patients that from time to time as a nurse you become very attached to. The fact she had few close friends meant she needed more support than patients who have lots of family and friends nearby.

I keep my Aloe Vera plant on my kitchen windowsill in the full sunshine, I have nurtured this plant for over five years, and as you can see it has flourished. That to me is what nursing is about, supporting and caring for a patient regardless of the outcome. I think of Megan every time I water my plant or take a sprig to sooth a burn.

To me she will live on because she is remembered.